Locals Axlund, Olson tied for 14th at 1 under par after opening round of stroke play at U.S. Mid-Amateur
By Gary Baines – 09/14/2019
Ryan Axlund of Englewood has now played a grand total of five rounds in USGA national championships, and two of them have taken place at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora.
Seven years ago, the Coloradan shot a 74 at that facility en route to failing to make match play at the 2012 U.S. Amateur that Cherry Hills Country Club hosted.
On Saturday, in the U.S. Mid-Amateur taking place in Colorado, Axlund played considerably better on the course that the CGA owns and operates. In fact, he was 4 under par after eight holes and was near the top of the leaderboard at the 264-man event. And despite playing the back nine in 3 over par, his 1-under-par 69 left him in a share of 14th place.
“I’m thrilled,” said Axlund, who is looking to make match play for the first time in his three USGA championship appearances. “My goal today was to try to keep it between the lines and just stay out of my own way as much as possible. I’m very happy with how the day turned out. If you go under-par in the first round (of an event like this), that’s always going to be pretty good.”
For the day Axlund (above) chalked up four birdies and three bogeys on a golf course that has added a couple of new wrinkles since the 2012 U.S. Am.
“The new tees they added on 8 and 9 definitely gave those two holes a very fresh look,” he said. “It was nice to see the updates they had made to the golf course.”
After Saturday’s opening round of the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the event being held at both CommonGround and Colorado Golf Club, Axlund and former University of Colorado-Colorado Springs golfer Jon Olson (pictured at top) are leading the 13-man local contingent for the U.S. Mid-Am. While Axlund was 1 under par at CommonGround, Olson was 1 under at Colorado Golf Club.
The players will switch courses on Sunday for the second day of stroke play — with Axlund going to Colorado Golf Club and Olson to CommonGround. The top 64 golfers at the conclusion of of round 2 will advance to match play. Actually, getting down to exactly 64 will likely require a playoff, which would be held Monday morning at Colorado Golf Club.
On Saturday, 29 players shot sub-par rounds, with 64 golfers sitting at 1 over par or better after 18 holes.
In the competition for stroke-play medalist honors, Marc Engellener of Rocklin, Calif., and Robbie Ziegler of Portland, Ore., matched 5-under-par totals to lead the way. Engellener fired a 5-under 65 at CommonGround and Ziegler a 5-under 67 at Colorado Golf Club.
As for Olson, he lived and went to college in Colorado before Colorado Golf Club was built, but he seemed to make himself right at home at the Parker course in Saturday’s opening round.
Olson, who played golf at UCCS from 1999-2003, is back in his old haunts hoping to make a little magic in the national championship for amateurs 25 and older.
In that regards, it was so far, so good on Saturday. The 39-year-old, who now lives in Ankeny, Iowa, played his first eight holes in 4 under par, briefly giving him a share of the lead. That was before two three-putts on his back nine — the front at Colorado Golf Club — led to his 71.
“When you come back to a place like this, it’s kind of like your second home in a way,” Olson said. “Being comfortable is really important in these kind of environments for a USGA event. You’ve got to know everything that’s in front of you and take everything with a grain of salt. I’m really happy with the start. I figured if I’d shoot 72-73-74, that would be fine. I’m a little under that, so we’ll do it again tomorrow and see what happens.
“It’s stroke play. All you need to do is get to Monday, then you’re starting over again. “The first nine, I played great. I didn’t feel like I wasted anything. We got on the clock (for slow play, after his 11th hole), so that kind of got me out of rhythm a little bit. It probably cost me two (shots). I three-putted 4 and 6. But under par at a USGA is always really good.”
Olson, a 2003 NCAA Division II second-team All-American at UCCS, has qualified for four U.S. Mid-Ams, but is competing in just his second. He made match play in his previous appearance, in 2014.
In Iowa, there isn’t much Olson hasn’t done, having won the Iowa Open (when he was still a pro in 2007); the Iowa Golf Association Amateur; the IGA Match Play twice, including this year; the IGA Mid-Amateur three times; and the IGA Public Links.
Given his accomplishments and the way he feels about Colorado, Olson sees no reason why he can’t be a contender this week at Colorado Golf Club.
“This has been on my radar because it was Colorado,” he said. “I want to make a serious run here, I really do. I’ve had some friends who have won it.
“It’s nice to be back in Colorado. I kind of feel at home again. I love this place. I’d love to come out here full time some day.”
On Saturday, Olson was 4 under par through 11 holes before playing the next four in 3 over. But at the end of the day, he was still a happy camper given that he finished under par at a venue that has hosted a Senior PGA Championship and a Solheim Cup.
“This place is awesome,” he said. “We’re really lucky to be able to come out here where they’ve hosted the Solheim Cup and the Senior PGA. And this isn’t the last thing they’ll be hosting. It’s built for hosting events.”
As far as other competitors with strong Colorado connections, Nick Nosewicz of Aurora is next-best as a 2-over-par 74 at Colorado Golf Club put him in 65th place. Nosewicz, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on Sunday, made three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey in round 1.
None of the other locals shot 75 or under.
Matt Call of Castle Rock, playing at his home course, fired a 78 at Colorado Golf Club after going eagle-triple bogey-birdie on his final three holes. Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kent Moore, the oldest player in the field at age 63, opened with an 82 at Colorado GC.
Here are the first-round scores for all the players with major Colorado ties in the field:
14. Ryan Axlund of Englewood 1-under 69 at CommonGround
14. Former UCCS golfer Jon Olson 1-under 71 at Colorado GC
65. Nick Nosewicz of Aurora 2-over 74 at Colorado GC
104. Charles Santaularia of Lakewood 4-over 76 at Colorado GC
155. Stephen Powers of Denver 6-over 76 at CommonGround
155. Matt Call of Castle Rock 6-over 78 at Colorado GC
173. Steve Irwin of Golden 7-over 79 at Colorado GC
194. Michael Harrington of Colorado Springs 8-over 78 at CommonGround
194. Jay Livsey of Wheat Ridge 8-over 78 at CommonGround
221. Kent Moore of Centennial 10-over 82 at Colorado GC
221. Charles Sahlman of Denver 10-over 82 at Colorado GC
236. David Lysaught of Denver 11-over 83 at Colorado Golf Club
259. Mitch Donald of Vail 16-pver 86 at CommonGround
The Leaders: The leaders after day 1 of stroke play each shot 5 under par on their respective courses. Robbie Ziegler of Portland, Ore., fired a 5-under 67 at Colorado Golf Club and Marc Engellener of Rocklin, Calif., posted a 5-under 65 at CommonGround Golf Course.
Engellener eagled the par-5 third hole at CommonGround and added four birdies and a bogey. Ziegler also made an eagle — at the 16th at Colorado Golf Club — and made three of his six birdies on his final three holes of the day.
Ziegler, who was born in Denver, went birdie-eagle-double bogey on Nos. 15-17 (his sixth through eighth holes of the day), with the eagle coming from 20 feet. On his final nine holes, he chalked up five birdies to go along with a bogey. Just in his final dozen holes, Ziegler drained one 30-foot putt, two 20-footers, and three 10-footers.
“My back nine, I hit it close a bunch and I made all of them essentially,” he said. “It was real steady and the rest took care of itself.”
Engellener played his first eight holes at CommonGround in 5 under par. The spark came on the par-5 third hole, where he hit a hybrid from 300 yards to 8 feet and made eagle. His subsequent three birdies came from 3, 4 and 6 feet.
“I got off to a crazy hot start,” he said. “I hit my driver really well today, so I had a lot of wedges into the green and hit a couple of wedges close.
“It was probably about as tough and firm of a golf course as I’ve probably ever played in a tournament. … In terms of a tournament set-up, I don’t think you could have done a better job. I mean it was just fair, tough golf.”
Notable: Reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Bob Royak of Alpharetta, Ga., made a hole-in-one at the sixth hole at CommonGround on Saturday, using a 6-iron from 186 yards. It was his 11th ace. Royal posted an even-par 70. … Plenty of prominent people in Colorado golf are playing roles in the U.S. Mid-Amateur. For instance, Colorado Golf Hall of Famers and former USGA Executive Committee members Jim Bunch and Christie Austin are serving as rules officials, along with Austin’s husband Bob. CGA executive director Ed Mate is an official starter. Colorado-based retired USGA director of regional affairs Mark Passey is in a scoring tent. Several other CGA staffers are doing rules and checkpoint duty. Also on hand is USGA staffer Daniela Lendl, daughter of eight-time Grand Slam tournament tennis champion Ivan Lendl. Daniela Lendl is a former University of Denver women’s golf assistant coach.
For all the scores from the U.S. Mid-Amateur, CLICK HERE.
U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship: The Essentials
What: 39th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
When: Sept. 14-19.
Where: Colorado Golf Club in Parker Sept. 14-19, and CGA-owned CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora Sept. 14-15.
Field: 264 of the world’s top amateur players 25 years of age and older. The USGA accepted 4,751 entries this year, the second-most ever for this championship.
Spectators: Fans can watch the event free of charge.
Day By Day Schedule:
Saturday, Sept. 14: First round of stroke play at both courses.
Sunday, Sept. 15: Second round of stroke play, with competitors switching courses from Saturday.
Monday, Sept. 16: After likely playoff to cut the field to exactly 64 players, the first round of match play at Colorado GC.
Tuesday, Sept. 17: Round of 32 and round of 16 matches, both at Colorado GC.
Wednesday, Sept. 18: Quarterfinal and semifinal matches, both at Colorado GC.
Thursday, Sept. 19: 36-hole title match, at Colorado GC.
At Stake: In addition to the U.S. Mid-Amateur title, a spot in the 2020 U.S. Open and likely a berth in the 2020 Masters.
USGA Champions in Field:
— Stewart Hagestad (2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur)
— Scott Harvey (2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur, 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball)
— Tim Hogarth (1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links)
— Randy Lewis (2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur)
— Michael McCoy (2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur)
— Kevin O’Connell (2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur)
— Matt Parziale (2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur)
— Bob Royak (2019 U.S. Senior Amateur)
— Nathan Smith (2003, 2009, 2010, 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur; 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball)
— Todd White (2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball)
— Jeff Wilson (2018 U.S. Senior Amateur)
Residents of Colorado in Field:
— Ryan Axlund of Denver
— Matt Call of Castle Rock
— Mitch Donald of Vail
— Michael Harrington of Colorado Springs
— Steve Irwin of Golden
— Jay Livsey of Wheat Ridge
— David Lysaught of Denver
— Kent Moore of Centennial
— Nick Nosewicz of Aurora
— Stephen Powers of Denver
— Charles Sahlman of Denver
— Charles Santaularia of Lakewood
Yardage/Par for Each Course — Colorado Golf Club: 7,561 yards and par-72. CommonGround Golf Course: 7,470 yards and par-70.
Previous U.S. Mid-Amateur Held in Colorado: 1983 at Cherry Hills Country Club, where Jay Sigel won. Overall, this is the 33rd USGA championship held in Colorado.
Earlier Major Events Held at Colorado Golf Club: 2010 Senior PGA Championship, 2013 Solheim Cup.
Earlier Major Event Held at CommonGround Golf Course: 2012 U.S. Amateur (stroke-play companion course in conjunction with overall host Cherry Hills Country Club).